I THINK I’VE WORKED IT OUT – why writing about today’s version of “progressive” politics leaves me feeling so depressed. In the end, the reason I cannot bring myself to vote for either Labour or the Greens is very simple: it’s because they are joyless; because the logical end-point of the ideology they espouse is one of universal dissatisfaction and unending conflict. In other words, their direction-of-travel is dystopic. That’s why so many voters are pulling away from parties they’ve supported all their adult lives. They don’t like where Labour and the Greens are going, and they’ll be damned if they’ll go there with them.
Chippy can talk about “bread and butter” all he likes, but everybody knows that he and Grant Robertson have already committed themselves to less butter and thinner bread for at least the next three years. We also know that if, by some miracle, Labour-Green wins the election, then none of the initiatives which both parties signed-up to over the past six years: radical ethnic nationalism, censorship, transgenderism; are going to be abandoned. What looms ahead of New Zealand if Labour-Green wins is grinding economic austerity and relentless cultural warfare. Thinner bread and bloody roses.
The cynicism of the Greens is particularly galling. As the election looms ever closer, the party’s dominant ultra-progressive faction has been careful to remove the most off-putting of their policies from the party’s shop-front window. Barely tolerated by Green activists for most of the past three years, James Shaw has been thrust forward to sell the party’s popular and genuinely progressive policies to the electorate. Unfortunately, everybody who understands just how radical the Greens have become, also knows that the moment the votes are counted Shaw will be pushed aside and the party’s ultra-progressive priorities reclaimed from the backstage area and reinstated.
It is precisely this sort of conscious deception, this deliberate “fooling” of the voters, that has transformed progressive politics from what used to be a joyful affirmation of idealism into a joyless exercise in dishonesty.
According to this sort of progressive politician, the liberation of the oppressed cannot be achieved if their would-be liberators are open and honest about their intentions. Just look at the trouble that Marama Davidson’s frank identification of “White Cis Males” as the ultimate cause of societal violence got the Greens into. In a world where White Cis Males still hold sway, such frankness is self-defeating. The trick, they say, is to keep all these progressive truths safe in one’s heart, while telling those not ready to hear them a pack of lies.
Far better to send out James Shaw – a White Cis Male – to sell the party’s Wealth Tax, its Universal Basic Income, and all the other inspirational policies on offer from the Greens in 2023. That way the voters will be much less likely to remember that the Green Party also favours sending those found guilty of uttering or publishing “Hate Speech” to prison for three years.
Not that Labour is guiltless in this regard. One has only to recall the secretive process by which the He Puapua Report was prepared and presented. Once again, it was assumed that Pakeha New Zealanders couldn’t “handle the truth”. Why else was the Labour Government so insistent that the report in no way represented a blueprint for New Zealand’s transformation into a bicultural state, when a steady stream of official policy decisions confirmed that’s exactly what it was?
Part of the answer lies in the fact that as far as today’s progressives are concerned the “truth” has changed. The unifying vision of human emancipation and equality which, for centuries, possessed the power to mobilise the downtrodden and oppressed is no longer considered to be either achievable or desirable.
Progressive politics has moved beyond the idea of uplifting and overcoming; of building a society in which there are no masters, no servants; no rich, no poor. Envisaged now is what can only be described as a perpetual theatre of cruelty, in which those to whom evil has been done, are encouraged to do evil in return. Far from serving as the emancipating “vanguard” of the Proletariat, as Karl Marx hoped, the intelligentsia of the Twenty-First Century are claiming for themselves the role of Grand Inquisitor. They have made themselves the pitiless torturers of all those whose “privilege” cannot be overcome or abandoned, only confessed to and punished.
The historical precedent which springs to mind most readily is the extreme form of Maoism promulgated by the murderous Khmer Rouge regime of the 1970s. Starting where Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” left off, the “Red Khmers” constructed an ideological system grounded in deception and death. Having been marched out of the cities and into the countryside, “bourgeois” Cambodians were encouraged to confess their “crimes against the people”. By no other means, the commissars told them, could they be welcomed into the rural utopia which the Red Khmers were bringing into existence. The moment they stepped forward, of course, they were denounced and suffocated.
Over the top? Barking mad? Grossly defamatory of activists who only want people to be free and equal? How I wish it were true! But one only has to visit the febrile world of social media to grasp the perverse enjoyment contemporary progressives derive from “flaming”, “de-platforming”, and “cancelling” – oh, what an ominous word that is – those who refuse to step forward and confess.
A woman like “Posie Parker”, perhaps?
Those who were in Albert Park on 25 March 2023, and those who watched the many video recordings made at the scene, could not help but note the delirious hatred of the mob, and the brutal behaviour it spawned. Such is the praxis of the post-modern progressive: telling the news media that theirs was a gathering of peace and love – while punching a 70-year-old woman in the face. And then, shamefully, having their lies accepted by the supposedly “independent” intellectuals appointed to expose and condemn media falsehoods.
Have a care when fighting monsters,” warned the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, “lest ye become a monster yourself.” Adding: “Stare not too long into the abyss – lest the abyss stare back into you.” Well, the horrific abyss of the bloody Twentieth Century has indisputably left its impression upon the children of the Twenty-First. Terrified that the monsters it spawned are returning to plague them, contemporary progressives have pre-emptively adopted the tactics of the fascists they profess to abhor.
That which Twenty-First Century progressives most feared, Twenty-First Century progressivism has become. No one old enough to have experienced the emancipatory power of true progressivism: in the factory or on the streets; in the university quad or in the “old school” newsroom; could possibly vote for the parties it has taken over.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 15 September 2023.